Identify Your Audience as a First Step in Your Writing Project

It Determines Content, Voice, Tone and Language

Writing is a complex form of communication. You’re speaking to people who must decipher your ideas through the filter of their own perspective, experiences, culture and education level. But, unlike a conversation, if your book or blog post doesn’t deliver they can walk away.

When you're speaking to a specific audience you must consider their interests and background to deliver your message. (Seen here: Annette Yourk, teaching a writing class.)

When you’re speaking to a specific audience you must consider their interests and background to deliver your message. (Seen here: Annette Yourk, teaching a writing class.)

So who is your audience? Answering this question should be one of your first considerations. Start with a generalized statement about a broad spectrum of readers—and then get specific. Make notes, because writing causes us to think in more depth.

Make Notes About Your “Ideal Reader”:

• How does your ‘ideal reader’ think and feel?
• What kind of work does she do?
• What are her life and family circumstances?
• What is it in her personality and interests that makes your subject relevant to her?
• What impact will your book or essay have on her? What will she know, feel and do differently as a result?

Your ideal reader profile can be a combination of personalities, but it must represent real people—otherwise you’ll just write this book for the person you know best—you. From here on your ideal reader will be in constant view as you write. You’ll adopt a tone, style and structure that reaches out to him. You want him to keep turning the pages.

An Example of the Benefits

Here’s a situational example of how this works. A client I’m mentoring is writing a self-help book. She has a broad potential market, ranging from those who read everything they can find on her topic, to people who need this information but come to it with reluctance. It’s the latter, in this writer’s many years of clinical practice, who reap the deepest benefits—so she has concocted a composite of the latter as her ideal. Every decision she makes, from the book’s theme and chapter content, to language, will be directed to him. And in this writer’s case, her ideal reader will be a man because most books on her topic are addressed to women.

Targeting your writing to a specific person (or a specific group of people) helps you plan a book, motivates your writing and gives the content focus and structure. Trust that a wide audience will also be drawn in—along with your ideal readers. And rest assured that the publisher and market niche you want to attract will be impressed by the personality and focus your writing will achieve.